This week, opera and Broadway star Paulo Szot returned to 54 Below for his eighth appearance in his show “Salute to Broadway.” The set list, music directed by Billy Stritch, drew upon songs that have played a formative role in Szot’s life and career as an artist, including songs he performed for the first time that evening.
After a jazz intro, Paulo Szot appeared amidst the crowd and launched straight into a spirited rendition of “Once in a Lifetime” from the musical “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off,” which made full use of his strength as an operatic singer to fill the venue.
Following this was an arrangement which blended the songs “Long Ago (and far away)” from George Gershwin “Cover Girl,” with “I Have Dreamed” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” This number exuded charm as Szot romanced the audience with his delivery of lines such as “I will love being loved by you.”
Next, Szot seized his chance to sing “This is the Moment” from Bricusse’s musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” a song which, Szot notes, has existed within the baritone’s repertoire but he had yet to perform. “This ends now,” Szot affirms before giving one of the evening’s highlights in what was undoubtedly a triumphant rendition.
On that note of inner conflict was a much more comical number, namely “Guido’s Song” from Maury Yeston’s “Nine.” Szot introduced this song by touching on the highly-relatable problems faced by Guido Contini: “Aging, marriage, his creativity, aging…” With minor tweaks to the lyrics, such as “My body’s nearing fifty while my mind is nearing… ten!” Szot‘s honest delivery felt like an outpouring of his own inner desires.
Among the set list was Leonard Bernstein’s “Lonely Town,” from his hit musical “On The Town,” in celebration of the composer’s centennial. Next, Szot spoke of love, and its difficulties and rewards; dedicated to the 67th anniversary of his parents’ marriage the song “Being Alive” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”
A Very Special Guest
For his performance on June 27, Paulo Szot was joined by Broadway princess Laura Osnes, who shared a stage with Szot in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” when she filled in for Kelli O’Hara in the role of Nellie Forbush. Reunited, Szot and Osnes performed the heart-wrenching duet “Too Many Mornings” from Sondheim’s bittersweet musical “Follies.” Osnes’ youthful timbre, practically unchanged from when she sang “Love Will See Us Through” at the 2010 Sondheim Birthday Concert, took on a deeper nuance as a result of the circumstances of the song, her own growing experience as a performer, and the undoubted chemistry between her and Szot. Following in the songs from “Follies” was the classic torch song “Losing My Mind.” Here Szot relished in the emotion behind the verse, giving it a breathy delivery suggestive of being on the verge of tears.
From South Pacific
Next, Szot delighted the audience with a Bossa Nova experiment: a medley of songs from “South Pacific” given a Brazilian beat. Among the songs were “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” “Bali Hai,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Happy Talk,” “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” and, of course, “Some Enchanted Evening.”
What Lies Ahead
After this show finishes its run this week, Paulo Szot will be undertaking the role of Juan Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita,” directed by none other than Hal Prince for the 2018 Australian Tour. If audiences are unable to see this production down under, they won’t want to miss Szot at 54 Below.